The mayors of 14 major cities are joining with a number of CEOs to call on the federal government to invest more money into affordable housing and homeless services.
The coalition is launching an effort called “Mayors & CEOs for U.S. Housing Investment,” which the group bills as a “first-of-its-kind coalition of local government and business leaders collaborating to advance public-private partnerships that tackle affordable housing and homelessness and actively oppose current funding cuts.”
The group includes the mayors of Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego, and San Francisco, California; Mesa and Phoenix, Arizona; Little Rock, Arkansas; Aurora and Denver, Colorado; Washington, D.C.; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The effort was initiated last year by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who died suddenly late last year.
“An affordable place to live should be within reach for everyone in America who dreams of making a better life for themselves their family,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “Too many cities across the country are facing an unprecedented housing crisis. We are here to call on leaders in Washington to develop new revenue streams and incentives that communities need to build and preserve the affordable housing that all of our communities deserve.”
The mayors are joined in the initial effort by the CEOs of Airbnb, Sutter Health, and GHC Housing Partners, one of the nation’s largest affordable housing providers.
“Airbnb is built on the foundation of creating community through belonging and we’re honored to stand with a bipartisan group of mayors and businesses from across the country dedicated to improving communities by addressing affordable housing and homelessness,” said Nathan Blecharczyk, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Airbnb. “Our experience has shown the best solutions are often the result of the public and private sectors working together, and so we are particularly proud to be working with this coalition to identify and fund innovative ideas that work.”
The group is calling on the federal government to enact four policy changes:
Maximize funding for existing federal programs that work, like Section 8 Housing Vouchers, Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance Grants and Community Development Block Grants.
Issue new, competitive HUD-HIIRO (Housing Innovation, Investment and Reform Opportunities) grants modeled after the Department of Transportation’s successful TIGER grants, designed for local communities to reward innovative thinking and collaborative, cross-sector projects to combat homelessness and affordable housing problems. These types of programs have proven to leverage local investment to provide strong social and economic returns.
Build on the successful HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing model through HUD-PASS (Partnerships Accelerating Supportive Services), which would pair HUD vouchers with Health and Human Services programs to help families and individuals experiencing homelessness who have mental health issues and other barriers to assistance.
Create a Housing Stabilization Fund – a pool of funds within HUD that can provide one-time, short-term emergency housing assistance to households below 80% of AMI. Funds would be initially allocated to communities by formula, and subsequently on a pro rata basis adjusted for performance. There are many low-income renter and owner households which, while generally able to afford their homes, still lack any cushion when faced with a housing emergency. For these households, the loss of a job or a health emergency can result in eviction and a downward spiral of housing instability that often ends in homelessness. Unfortunately, there is no consistent housing program, fund or tool to help prevent such losses.
“I am proud to join the Mayors and CEOs for U.S. Housing Investment coalition in our bipartisan campaign effort representing geographically diverse urban, rural and suburban municipalities,” Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said.
“A lack of affordable housing can put a local economy at a competitive disadvantage as many employers have reported that a lack of affordable housing makes it more difficult and costly to recruit and retain employees,” Stanton said. “Affordable housing payments can significantly increase the residual income that households have at their disposal, which allows local businesses to gain from the increased buying power.”
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf added: “Mayors and business leaders have a unique understanding of the needs in the community, and the economic barriers which hold cities back from reaching their goal of creating stable and thriving communities. The creation of a bipartisan coalition made up of elected officials and CEOs, working in concert with nonprofit leaders and policy experts, will send the strong message to our federal government that investing in affordable housing and programs to prevent homelessness, will lead to economic growth, a better trained and prepared workforce, and stronger, more resilient cities.”